Thursday, October 12, 2006

Michael Ignatieff: People are missing the point

The big picture of the Michael Ignatieff-Israel-war crimes story is this: Ignatieff is being attacked, not specifically for the content of what he said (except today by Harper) but for the fact that he said it! Michael Ignatieff is being called amateurish; it's been said he has a "big mouth" and should learn to keep it shut.

Why? What Ignatieff said wasn't, first of all, indicative of an anti-Israeli position. Ignatieff is actually pro-Israel, but it is possible to disagree with certain Israeli actions if one takes a pro-Israel position; I'm a supporter of Israel when it comes right down to it, but I do have seirous misgivings.

But furthermore, it was a case of a politician speaking his mind. Michael Ignatieff gave a bold, honest opinion on a very controversial subject, and it's being called a "gaffe."

A gaffe!? So now a gaffe is letting one's opinion be known? We've reached a very dark place in the civil discourse when when stating your honest opinion is considered a "gaffe."

20 Comments:

At 10/12/2006 11:24 p.m., Blogger Devon said...

Do you understand that accusing a country of a war crime is serious? Especially considering no war crime has even been found committed by Israel in the crisis. You miss the mark.

 
At 10/12/2006 11:35 p.m., Blogger Kyle Carruthers said...

I agree with Johnny. As the leader of a country you dont go around throwing accusations of war crimes.

I know you like your politics idealistic Ryan, but sometimes politicians have to hold their tounge and employ a little diplomacy in their political strategy.

 
At 10/12/2006 11:40 p.m., Blogger Altavistagoogle said...

Clear Grit,

Amen. I'd like to see that whimp Gerard Kennedy on Tout le monde en parle and see how he does.

 
At 10/12/2006 11:40 p.m., Anonymous Crescent Canuck said...

Ignatieff if he wants to lead the Liberal party cannot be expected to say everything that pops into his mind. It's politics - it's dirty and it's not kindergarden, unfortunately. Every mistake and gaffe of his will be highlighted in the national media.

And also, now we don't know where he stands. Does he think Israel went overboard, does he think it was just another casualty of war (collateral damage) or what.

Mezba

 
At 10/12/2006 11:45 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree, this is an attack on an opinion, and thats dangerous, like good old johnny there, no idea what hes talkin about or a student of j. geobbels school of propaganda, there was a potencial crime commited by israel which is been investigated right now, and thats the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas in the south of Lebanon,(just to name one) and to be fair, hisbullah is also in trouble for using rockets on civilian target, but to the mixed up christian right, one cannot critisize or have an adverse opinion of israel, we all know what happens when a coutry is given carte blanche. The point is....the freedom to express one opinion, is been attacked, and that is a dangerous path, we will all regret, if we are not vigilant....Sooooo johnny? Who missed the mark?????little man.

 
At 10/12/2006 11:50 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crescent Canuck said...
"Ignatieff if he wants to lead the Liberal party cannot be expected to say everything that pops into his mind. It's politics - it's dirty and it's not kindergarden, unfortunately. Every mistake and gaffe of his will be highlighted in the national media."
Let me see, who else in history said what poped in is mind, and was very successfull, mmmmmmm....
Oh ya...P.E.Trudeau...Fuuuuu....ddle duddle...the finger...so on...I am starting to like this Ignatief...he expresses his opinion...and thats Canadian.

 
At 10/13/2006 12:01 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kennedy has a 10 year political record and has never said and never will accuse a country of a war crime without evidence.

Joke is on you know who, several times over.

 
At 10/13/2006 12:08 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle, while you may believe it's politically convenient to downplay evidence of grave breaches of the laws of war, some of us prefer a little principle with our politics. It's sickening that you would suggest that leaders should 'hold their tongue' on an issue as serious as this just because it may win you a few votes.

I can only hope that Kennedy isn't as shallow as some of his supporters.

 
At 10/13/2006 12:31 a.m., Blogger Kyle Carruthers said...

Anonymous,

Spare me your high and mighty nonsense. The fact is that politicians who make statements without thinking quickly find themselves on the opposition benches. Canadians will not tolerate a leader who goes around accusing other states of war crimes on a game show in a politically charged environment.

I have my ideals, and my ideals say the cause of liberalism is not served by sitting on the opposition benches.

Its not as if this Ignatieff can't express his views on the subject. If Ignatieff wants to express his concern about what went on in Qana he is free to do so. But he should do so in a more diplomatic fashion. Throwing around legal pronouncements, (prefaced with the representation to be an authority on the subject) is not helpful and accomplishes nothing.

 
At 10/13/2006 12:47 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

my ideals say the cause of liberalism is not served by sitting on the opposition benches.

They are hardly ideals if you are willing to trade them for power.

If your idea of diplomacy is to look the other way when the military of a democratic state recklessly or intentionally targets civilians, yours is a morally impoverished concept of diplomacy.

Answer me this: do you or do you not believe that war crimes were committed in Lebanon?

 
At 10/13/2006 1:32 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

well putting aside the concept that war crimes have to do with the laws of the armed conflict of nations and the fact that hezbolla is actually considered by most in this country to be a terrorist group. It is a war crime to use human shields which hezbolla seemed ot do in this case or maybe they didn't, and maybe Isreal targetted civilians on purpose. I don't know I wasn't there. And I bet neither were any of you. One thing I am sure of is that the Prime Minister of a G7 nation (or those aspiring to do so) does not have the luxury of musing outloud about serious international issues. I mean really, in the Canadian political context over the last few months MI has alienated both sides of a serious and deadly conflict. Talked about an environmental plan that he will get around to in the next 50 years or so and in his spare time decided he would pick at the nations constitutional scabs. When you want to be Prime Minister it is not enough to say what's on your mind, you have to show some wisdom and leadership as well. Isn't that the point

 
At 10/13/2006 1:55 a.m., Blogger Daniel Mosely said...

Well anonymous I must commend you on your excellent grammer, and you content is only matched by it.

You say Israel is under investigation, but there is a difference between investigation and guilt.

Here is what a toronto University professor said, you can find more at liberallifeandtimes.blogspot.com:
"Mr. Ignatieff's latest gaffe was the last straw, a lollapalooza following a series of mere doozies. Speaking on a Quebec radio show, he addressed the question of the Israeli air raid in Qana, Lebanon, on July 30 during the war with Hezbollah, in the aftermath of which 28 civilian deaths occurred. (Note my careful phrasing; we'll return to it.) "What happened in Qana was a war crime, and I should have said that. That's clear."

Clear that it was a war crime, or clear that he should have said it? Well, actually, neither. When contacted by a reporter, an aide said that, while Mr. Ignatieff would not retract his use of the term "war crime," that use had been misunderstood.

So rather than retract his statement, Mr. Ignatieff retracted our understanding of it. What he had meant, according to aide Leslie Church, was that "this was a tragedy of war, that this was a deplorable act of war, that this was a terrible consequence of war." He would never have been so irresponsible as to declare a finding in international law on a talk show.

Well, that's a relief. Ms. Church is Mr. Ignatieff's spokeswoman, so she must know. Mr. Ignatieff was speaking in French, so perhaps crime de guerre or however he put it is best rendered in English as "really sad event." Mr. Ignatieff's French is awfully good, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

The thing is that to imply that Israel was guilty of a war crime -- indeed, that it was clearly guilty of one -- is to declare a finding in international law. It is a grave charge demanding equally weighty evidence. If Mr. Ignatieff possesses such evidence, he should provide it. Oops, I forgot: He said but didn't mean that Israel was guilty of a war crime.

There was clearly a war crime committed at Qana -- by Hezbollah. To use civilians as shields, as Hezbollah did at Qana as throughout Lebanon, is a war crime. Not only did it attack Israel using missile launchers deliberately sited in civilian areas (and sometimes inside civilian dwellings), but it had constructed civilian buildings (and even mosques) atop its buried military infrastructure so that Israel could not attack it without exacting a civilian toll.

Israel had every right to target those missile launchers, to target military infrastructure, to target dual-use infrastructure. It remained obliged, under these circumstances, to minimize civilian losses as much as is possible. That it did so, as a matter of general policy, is confirmed by what was, in fact, a very low toll in the conflict. So many days of bombing, and only a thousand civilian casualties (many of whom were almost certainly fighters whom Hezbollah refused to declare as such, thus suppressing the number of its losses while inflating civilian ones).

As to the Qana incident, much remains uncertain. We know that Hezbollah was firing missiles from nearby. We know that many hours passed between the air raid on the adjacent launchers and the collapse of the building. What happened during those hours? Why were the residents not moved? And what of the Israelis' claim that they had assumed the building was deserted? We don't possess sure answers to any of these questions, and neither does Mr. Ignatieff."

So if you think Ignatieff knew it was a war crime which his advisor denies he meant it that way, you disagree with Ignatieff's campaign and a University Professor.

By the way it should be pretty obvious that this anonymous blogger is clear grit. I find your comments about us being shallow quite illustrative of your poor arguing skills.

 
At 10/13/2006 1:56 a.m., Blogger Daniel Mosely said...

Well anonymous I must commend you on your excellent grammer, and you content is only matched by it.

You say Israel is under investigation, but there is a difference between investigation and guilt.

Here is what a toronto University professor said, you can find more at liberallifeandtimes.blogspot.com:
"Mr. Ignatieff's latest gaffe was the last straw, a lollapalooza following a series of mere doozies. Speaking on a Quebec radio show, he addressed the question of the Israeli air raid in Qana, Lebanon, on July 30 during the war with Hezbollah, in the aftermath of which 28 civilian deaths occurred. (Note my careful phrasing; we'll return to it.) "What happened in Qana was a war crime, and I should have said that. That's clear."

Clear that it was a war crime, or clear that he should have said it? Well, actually, neither. When contacted by a reporter, an aide said that, while Mr. Ignatieff would not retract his use of the term "war crime," that use had been misunderstood.

So rather than retract his statement, Mr. Ignatieff retracted our understanding of it. What he had meant, according to aide Leslie Church, was that "this was a tragedy of war, that this was a deplorable act of war, that this was a terrible consequence of war." He would never have been so irresponsible as to declare a finding in international law on a talk show.

Well, that's a relief. Ms. Church is Mr. Ignatieff's spokeswoman, so she must know. Mr. Ignatieff was speaking in French, so perhaps crime de guerre or however he put it is best rendered in English as "really sad event." Mr. Ignatieff's French is awfully good, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

The thing is that to imply that Israel was guilty of a war crime -- indeed, that it was clearly guilty of one -- is to declare a finding in international law. It is a grave charge demanding equally weighty evidence. If Mr. Ignatieff possesses such evidence, he should provide it. Oops, I forgot: He said but didn't mean that Israel was guilty of a war crime.

There was clearly a war crime committed at Qana -- by Hezbollah. To use civilians as shields, as Hezbollah did at Qana as throughout Lebanon, is a war crime. Not only did it attack Israel using missile launchers deliberately sited in civilian areas (and sometimes inside civilian dwellings), but it had constructed civilian buildings (and even mosques) atop its buried military infrastructure so that Israel could not attack it without exacting a civilian toll.

Israel had every right to target those missile launchers, to target military infrastructure, to target dual-use infrastructure. It remained obliged, under these circumstances, to minimize civilian losses as much as is possible. That it did so, as a matter of general policy, is confirmed by what was, in fact, a very low toll in the conflict. So many days of bombing, and only a thousand civilian casualties (many of whom were almost certainly fighters whom Hezbollah refused to declare as such, thus suppressing the number of its losses while inflating civilian ones).

As to the Qana incident, much remains uncertain. We know that Hezbollah was firing missiles from nearby. We know that many hours passed between the air raid on the adjacent launchers and the collapse of the building. What happened during those hours? Why were the residents not moved? And what of the Israelis' claim that they had assumed the building was deserted? We don't possess sure answers to any of these questions, and neither does Mr. Ignatieff."

So if you think Ignatieff knew it was a war crime which his advisor denies he meant it that way, you disagree with Ignatieff's campaign and a University Professor.

By the way it should be pretty obvious that this anonymous blogger is clear grit. I find your comments about us being shallow quite illustrative of your poor arguing skills.

 
At 10/13/2006 1:56 a.m., Blogger Devon said...

Well anonymous I must commend you on your excellent grammer, and you content is only matched by it.

You say Israel is under investigation, but there is a difference between investigation and guilt.

Here is what a toronto University professor said, you can find more at liberallifeandtimes.blogspot.com:
"Mr. Ignatieff's latest gaffe was the last straw, a lollapalooza following a series of mere doozies. Speaking on a Quebec radio show, he addressed the question of the Israeli air raid in Qana, Lebanon, on July 30 during the war with Hezbollah, in the aftermath of which 28 civilian deaths occurred. (Note my careful phrasing; we'll return to it.) "What happened in Qana was a war crime, and I should have said that. That's clear."

Clear that it was a war crime, or clear that he should have said it? Well, actually, neither. When contacted by a reporter, an aide said that, while Mr. Ignatieff would not retract his use of the term "war crime," that use had been misunderstood.

So rather than retract his statement, Mr. Ignatieff retracted our understanding of it. What he had meant, according to aide Leslie Church, was that "this was a tragedy of war, that this was a deplorable act of war, that this was a terrible consequence of war." He would never have been so irresponsible as to declare a finding in international law on a talk show.

Well, that's a relief. Ms. Church is Mr. Ignatieff's spokeswoman, so she must know. Mr. Ignatieff was speaking in French, so perhaps crime de guerre or however he put it is best rendered in English as "really sad event." Mr. Ignatieff's French is awfully good, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

The thing is that to imply that Israel was guilty of a war crime -- indeed, that it was clearly guilty of one -- is to declare a finding in international law. It is a grave charge demanding equally weighty evidence. If Mr. Ignatieff possesses such evidence, he should provide it. Oops, I forgot: He said but didn't mean that Israel was guilty of a war crime.

There was clearly a war crime committed at Qana -- by Hezbollah. To use civilians as shields, as Hezbollah did at Qana as throughout Lebanon, is a war crime. Not only did it attack Israel using missile launchers deliberately sited in civilian areas (and sometimes inside civilian dwellings), but it had constructed civilian buildings (and even mosques) atop its buried military infrastructure so that Israel could not attack it without exacting a civilian toll.

Israel had every right to target those missile launchers, to target military infrastructure, to target dual-use infrastructure. It remained obliged, under these circumstances, to minimize civilian losses as much as is possible. That it did so, as a matter of general policy, is confirmed by what was, in fact, a very low toll in the conflict. So many days of bombing, and only a thousand civilian casualties (many of whom were almost certainly fighters whom Hezbollah refused to declare as such, thus suppressing the number of its losses while inflating civilian ones).

As to the Qana incident, much remains uncertain. We know that Hezbollah was firing missiles from nearby. We know that many hours passed between the air raid on the adjacent launchers and the collapse of the building. What happened during those hours? Why were the residents not moved? And what of the Israelis' claim that they had assumed the building was deserted? We don't possess sure answers to any of these questions, and neither does Mr. Ignatieff."

So if you think Ignatieff knew it was a war crime which his advisor denies he meant it that way, you disagree with Ignatieff's campaign and a University Professor.

By the way it should be pretty obvious that this anonymous blogger is clear grit. I find your comments about us being shallow quite illustrative of your poor arguing skills.

 
At 10/13/2006 1:58 a.m., Blogger Devon said...

copy and paste

 
At 10/13/2006 8:48 a.m., Blogger Red Tory said...

I couldn’t agree with you more. It might not have been the politically expedient thing to say, but it was correct based on the facts, the report of the IDF and international law regarding such matters.

 
At 10/13/2006 8:58 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is interesting. JohnLocke posted the same article at 1:55 and 1:56, and Johnny posted it again at 1:56.

The timing gives it away. JohnLocke and Johnny are two identities of one person.

Caught you, you sock puppets.

 
At 10/13/2006 1:32 p.m., Blogger Clear Grit said...

Kyle: I am quite pragmatic. However, I don't consider telling the truth to be a "gaffe." And in this case, it is Ignatieff's honest opinion that a war crime was committed. You may disagree, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't say it. And for the record, this country is not monolithically pro-Israel. Canadians appreciate a bit of nuance on this issue, and understand that opposing certain Israeli actions does not constitute a rejection of Israel as a whole, no matter what the ultra-Zionists would have you believe.

Also, I hate to question your integrity, but I do have to wonder what your reaction would be if, hypothetically of course, Kennedy had made that remark instead of Iggy. I have a hard time believing you'd stop supporting him over that. I also have a hard time believing you wouldn't be defending him. Maybe I'm wrong, but I've found that in politics, principle often goes by the wayside in favour of loyalty to a person or a party. I've been guilty of it myself.

I guarantee you, if Kennedy had made those remarks, his supporters would be rushing to his defence, where as they are attacking Iggy for the same remarks. (I'll bet you Iggy's supporters would be attacking Kennedy too, by the way.) I know this is how the game is played, but it's still really got a bad smell to it, and I feel like I ought to point that out.

altavistagoogle: I'd be more interested to hear what Kennedy's supporters (honestly) think about the allegation. I bet a lot of them (since I think it's safe to say the left of the party favours Kennedy) would agree with it, they just don't want to admit it.

KC again: Okay, but just hypothetically, at what point does principle trump practicality, if at all?

 
At 10/13/2006 3:29 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Iggy's downtrodden friends get jiggy.

Religion of Peace chalks up another 9 'confirmed kills'.

The 'involuntary martyrs' are, at this very moment, lounging gratefully at the foot of the prophet.

There was no immediate word on the religious ectasy of the remaining horribly maimed survivors.

 
At 10/13/2006 7:28 p.m., Blogger Kyle Carruthers said...

Ryan (Its hard not calling you BG btw),

I would not abandon Kennedy over this one statement, but I might consider abandoning Kennedy if he had shown a pattern of unneccessarily controversial statements that I felt threatened his electability. THAT is the point at which pragmatism has to temper my principles which say that generally I like politicians who arent overly scripted.

Like I said, I am not necessarily attacking WHAT Ignatieff said, but the manner in which he went about it. For one thing I take issue with Ignatieff saying conclusively that war crimes had been committed. Even the UN and Human Rights Watch are careful to make any conclusive statements about exactly what happened (AI is the exception). Those conclusions need to be drawn more carefully, by the appropriate authorities.

Another thing I take issue with is the use of the "war crime" terminology. There is a great deal of ignorance amongst the general population of what constitutes a "war crime". Many people might be surprised to find out that the "war crimes" that Israel is alleged to commit relate to 1) reckless conduct, not intentional conduct; and 2) the proportionality of the attacks which many people might to find a controversial principle of international law. "War crimes" conjures up images of Rwanda and Yugoslavia. More clarity was necessary in the situation.

I also take issue with is the fact that the comments were made in a highly charged political context on a GAME SHOW. Such serious accusations should be delivered in a more appropriate venue at a more approporiate time.

My concerns with Ignatieff's comments relate not to the content of what he said, but rather how he said it. If war crimes have been committed fine say it but:
1) Be careful not to make conclusive statements when the facts have not yet been adjudicatied.
2) If you are going to use highly charged and highly technical language like "war crimes", qualify your remarks so as not to leave unfair impressions in the minds of the less well educated.
3) Deliver that message at an appropriate venue, at an appropriate times.

I dont think any of these rules put undue restraints on discourse.

Returning to the pragmatism v. idealism debate--I think the point at which pragmatism must come into play in a politicians communications strategy at the point where larger, equally valuable objectives are threatened. If Ignatieff can express concern over Israel's actions in Lebanon without using highly charged rhetoric like "war crime"; without threatening the ability of the party to do all the things we want to do (ie defend social liberalism, defend our vision of federalism, etc. etc. etc.) then he should do it. He didnt and in my mind at least, that makes me question his competence as a politician.

 

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